Study of Osteoarthritis and Sleep: the Results Are Mixed

A new study of osteoarthritis and sleep by The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa found mixed results. On the positive side, the evidence shows that sleep disturbances in patients who suffer from osteoarthritis (OA) – the most common form of arthritis in the US – do not suffer more OA caused pain. Specifically, this means that the patients who were studied did not complain of a higher level of pain caused by OA, one year after reporting sleep disturbances or sleep loss. This is the good news. The bad news is that these same patients – those who have osteoarthritis and who claim to have sleep disturbances and sleep loss over the span of a year – almost unanimously reported higher levels of both depression and disability than did those patients with OA who were also able to generally sleep soundly.

The vicious cycle of the pain caused by osteoarthritis and the resulting lack of sleep, is common among those who suffer from OA, especially the obese and elderly. The head of the study, Dr. Patricia Parmelee, from the university’s Center for Mental Health & Aging, reports that, “Our research is unique as we investigate the complex relationships among sleep, OA-related pain, disability and depressed mood simultaneously in a single study.” This study on osteoarthritis and sleep has helped researchers to focus on other elements of treating OA, not just the glaring issue of constant pain. Dr. Parmelee further noted: “This study shows that depression plays a strong role in the sleep-pain connection, particularly with severe pain. Further investigation of sleep in disability progression may lead to new interventions that disrupt the cycle of OA distress.” Ultimately, this was the goal of the study. Hopefully, that goal may be achieved earlier than expected.